From new innovation parks to vibrant networking groups, the prominence of technology and innovation from Sea Space in the commercial landscape of Hastings, East Sussex is increasing sharply every year
South Queensway Enviro21 Park under construction
With the emphasis on attracting companies in the environmental technology sector, progress has been particularly strong in this part of south east England in Sea Space creating Enviro21 Innovation Parks. These are a series of linked sustainable business parks, which are designed by Sea Space to create a vibrant community oftechnology companies. The first of the series to be created is the South Queensway Enviro21 Park, which is now in advanced stages of construction. It will initially contain four business units, with more to follow later. The stylish premises combine offices with production space and range in size from to 540 to 1,023m2 (5,784 to 11,009ft2).
The South Queensway Park includes its showcase building, The Exchange ? a meeting, conference and exhibition centre with a sustainable restaurant. The Exchange will be a venue where companies can get together to collaborate and swap ideas. In this environmentally sensitive building, rainwater harvesting and biomass heating can be seen in action. The Exchange will also be a place where businesses can forge links with academic, research and support bodies ? organisations such as the University of Brighton, Business Link, Train to Gain, EnviroBusiness, the Energy Savings Trust, the Carbon Trust and the South East England Development Agency.
In addition, the site will see a two-megawatt wind turbine erected this year. Meteorological studies have found that the wind profile is ideal and indicate that a turbine should be capable of generating enough renewable energy to power 1,000 homes. The business units at South Queensway are on the verge of being completed, with letting negotiations with Sea Space now under way. Completion of The Exchange and wind turbine will follow closely later this summer.
Sparking the most interest among potential occupiers are the environmental benefits and energy efficiencies of the South Queensway Enviro21 Park. Sustainable building engineers JPA Ltd have analysed the data and forecast that the business units will emit 42% less CO2 than typical commercial buildings conforming to 2002 Building Regulations. They should even emit 25% less than typical brand-new premises conforming to the latest (2006) Building Regulations. These benefits stem from the units? built-in sustainable features. Most notably, the biomass heating systems are predicted to emit 87% less CO2 than standard gas-fired boilers. Other notable features include: thermal insulation up to 40% greater than building regulation standards; passive solar heating; natural ventilation; lighting control systems; and brown roofs.
Sea Space South Queensway scheme will be followed by the development of a second Enviro21 Park at North Queensway, just a stone?s throw away. Meanwhile, plans are being devised for further parks on the north eastern outskirts of neighbouring Bexhill, which is to be joined to the Queensway area of Hastings by a new road in 2012.
While the Enviro21 Parks are designed to attract technology companies and research organisations into the area, there is also considerable interest emerging from innovative local businesses.
When word went out, for example, about plans to establish an Environmental Technologies Networking Group, the organisers thought they would hear from a handful of local businesses interested in getting together. All their expectations were surpassed when no fewer than 250 signed up for membership, in fields from product design to waste management, construction re-use, renewable energy and environmental consulting.
Indeed, innovation is emerging as a strong theme among companies in the Hastings area, and there appears to be no shortage of entrepreneurs with the ingenuity and determination to break into new fields.
Local engineering firm Drallim Industries is a good example. It has taken advantage of the business support on offer locally and is firmly bucking the economic trend. It has acquired a series of companies over the past three years and grown significantly in both turnover and profit, despite the harsh economic climate.
Drallim?s bold expansion strategy must be paying off. The National Grid has just awarded the firm a £3m, seven-year contract for the manufacture of 966 ?slamshut cabinets? for a countrywide replacement programme. The products, in 18 variations, help monitor gas pressure and rapidly cut the flow of gas when systems exceed certain limits. The first shipment of 110 units is expected to leave the company in March, with regular batches to follow. Drallim is no stranger to such successes of late. For the second year running, it has won the accolade for Strategy and Leadership at the prestigious Manufacturer Awards.
Artist?s impression of Enviro21 business unit
BioMedical Computing is another local success story. It is a software company based at Hastings? Innovation Centre ? a busy set of incubation offices and workshops for technology firms. BioMedical Computing develops innovative web and software applications for fields as diverse as medicine, biotechnology, publishing and engineering. Managing Director James Densem explains that wanting to work alongside other dynamic firms was the primary impetus behind his decision to move his company to the Innovation Centre.
?The Centre gave us the perfect opportunity to up our space ? and our game. It?s been a key driver in our expansion.? Densem continues: ?We?ve been amazed how much the Centre has brought us by way of business networking. It?s significantly widened our contacts and helped us cultivate new working relationships. We?re now part of an energising business community and we?ve already designed web-based products for two of the companies working here.?
Elsewhere in Hastings, inventor Ronnie Lee has been busy creating a ground-breaking recycled roof tile. The product provides exceptional insulation and soundproofing, with all the associated environmental benefits. ?VonRon? roof tiles are interlocking, making them simple and quick to fit. The recycled plastic is hardwearing, ensuring they do not chip or damage easily, and they can be supplied in a range of colours and styles. In addition, 90% of the tiles are recyclable at the end of their lifespan.
As they are made from plastic, the products are also much lighter ? less than 10% the weight of conventional tiles. For the building contractor, this means more tiles can be transported, using less fuel, and they can be assembled much faster. Householders benefit from lower fuel bills and sound reduction, and avoid the damage that can be incurred when loose conventional tiles fall off a roof.
?I came up with the idea about five years ago,? says Ronnie Lee, ?but it was such a simple idea, I thought someone else must have come up with it already.? Lee is now the proud owner of a UK patent for the product. He worked with the local Product Development Centre to produce 3D CAD drawings, renders and prototypes of the tile and is now at the point of deciding whether to manufacture the product directly or to offer manufacturing licences.
In Hastings, at least, the recession seems to have done little to suppress new business ideas or dampen entrepreneurial spirits. The area?s thriving business community makes it an exciting place to be.
Jenny Haley, Sea Space
Tel: +44 1424 858102
Added the 19 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1